Gourmet Buffalo & Asian-Inspired Wings in Napa Valley

As I was going from restaurant to restaurant in search of the perfect chicken wing, I found out not all wings are created equal or even remotely the same. And because like everything here, Napa Valley, finds a way to elevate its wings to a whole new level.

I know what you are thinking, who in Napa Valley would write an article on chicken wings when there is so much extraordinary cuisine in the valley worth sharing.  I like the idea that restaurants can take something as basic as buffalo wings and turn them into something epicurean. Since I have been to several restaurants in and around St. Helena, noting vast differences in style and preparation, I felt it would be enjoyable to write about a few of my favorites.

Buffalo Style Chicken Wings – Cook Tavern – St. Helena

These aren’t standard Frank’s Hot Sauce Buffalo wings. There is a hint of honey and sweetness but still have kept their spicy kick. The wings themselves are Mary’s Chicken, free range and organic and very meaty on the bone; and are served with a side of blue cheese dipping sauce. Cook Tavern makes everything from scratch, and the buffalo sauce is no exception.

Buffalo style Mary's Chicken wings with blue cheese dipping sauce - Cook Tavern
Buffalo style Mary’s Chicken wings with blue cheese dipping sauce – Cook Tavern

Cook Tavern is a gastropub located on Main Street in St. Helena and serves hand-crafted cocktails and high-end appetizers such as duck confit tacos, homemade corndogs, soups, salads and a burger. These wings are served for lunch and dinner and are $12 for a healthy portion.

Chicken Wings – Wet or Dry – Goose & Gander – St. Helena

Another chicken wing entree that leans more toward the Asian style are the Goose & Gander wings served wet or dry. I ordered mine wet as opposed to dry and asked for some blue cheese. Luckily, Goose & Gander has an extensive artisan cheese list, and I was able to accompany my wings with Pennyroyal Boonters Blue.

Asian-inspired wings with Pennyroyal Boonters Blue cheese - Goose & Gander
Asian-inspired wings with Pennyroyal Boonters Blue cheese – Goose & Gander

The wings were full, and the sauce was a thick mix of sweet and sour with a substantial kick. The cheese was a nice, robust blue that went well with the sweetness of the sauce, however, that is purely subjective since I can’t live without cheese on my wings, others may find the wings better on their own. Goose & Gander serves wings for both lunch and dinner for $12, and the Pennyroyal Boonters Blue cheese is $7.

Smoked Chicken Wings – Pizzeria Tra Vigne – Saint Helena

Pizzeria Tra Vigne put a spin on wings by using a flavorful, housemade Italian wing sauce to the mix, adding heat and heartiness. The blue cheese aioli is tasty, although could be a little thicker in my mind. If you do like more chunk in your cheese, you can order a side of the pizzeria’s gorgonzola crumbles.

Wings with marinara, celery and blue cheese dressing - Pizzeria Tra Vigne - St. Helena
Wings with marinara, celery, and blue cheese dressing – Pizzeria Tra Vigne – St. Helena

Slightly crisp, it was a nice contrast to the traditional wings I had been ordering. Pizzeria Tra Vigne is known for artisan pizzas and piadines (Italian flatbreads). Smoked chicken wings are a relatively new item on the menu and available for lunch and dinner for $11.95.

Buffalo Wings – Sogni Di Dolci – Saint Helena

If you are one for traditional Buffalo-style hot wings, these have all the key ingredients of a classic hot wing, Frank’s Red Hot, celery and blue cheese. These wings smothered in the perfect sauce, have a crispy skin and a nice quality blue cheese dipping sauce. I usually like to pair it with their house rosé on tap; it goes well with wings in general.

Traditional Frank's style Buffalo wings with the house Rosé on Tap
Traditional Frank’s style Buffalo wings with the house Rosé on Tap

Sogni Di Dolci is predominantly a local’s hangout, serving espresso drinks, gelato, a variety of beers as well as bar bites and paninis. Sogni’s chicken wings are only available for happy hour and dinner, happy hour running from 3-6pm, serving four wings for $4 whereas the dinner portion serves eight wings for $8.

Crispy Hoisin Glazed Duck Wings – Archetype – St. Helena

Maybe your tired of chicken or just want to be more adventurous. Archetype has a great happy hour from 5-7pm and serves duck wings in a hoisin sauce. Duck wings are much larger than chicken wings and have a darker, fattier meat which falls off the bone. They are tossed in a dark colored hoisin sauce, served with a pineapple slice and topped with scallions and sesame seeds.

Crispy hoisin duck wings - Archetype happy hour
Crispy Hoisin duck wings – Archetype happy hour

These duck wings are rich, and the sauce reminds me of a Chinese version of mole sauce. Of the four wings, I could only eat three of them, and at the happy hour price of $8, this is a good deal.

Crispy Wings – Two Birds/One Stone

When the waitress mentions to you that the chef is known for his wings and fried chicken, you know you have hit the jackpot. Sticking with the Asian-inspired theme, the crispy wings with chili yuzu and picked watermelon rind seems more like a play on fried chicken than a basic wing.

Crispy Wings - Chili Yuzu - Two Birds/One Stone
Crispy Wings – Chili Yuzu and Pickled Watermelon Rind – Two Birds/One Stone

Four nice sized pieces are double battered, deep-fried and then tossed in a sweet and spicy chili yuzu sauce. The crunch was perfect, and the pickled watermelon rind added a nice contrast. The crispy wings are available for lunch and dinner for $9. Two Birds/One Stone is one of the latest, new hotspots in the Napa Valley and worth a visit especially to try the crispy wings.

Hong Kong Wings – Auberge du Soleil – Rutherford

The bar at Auberge has one of the most spectacular views in all of Napa Valley; they also have managed to elevate their chicken wing to a new level. The Hong Kong Wings with soy-lime vinaigrette had a nice sweet teriyaki style sauce. It’s one of my favorite wings thus far.

Hong Kong Wings with soy lime vinaigrette - Auberge du Soliel bar - Rutherford
Hong Kong Wings with soy lime vinaigrette – Auberge du Soliel bar – Rutherford

As per usual, I ordered up a side of blue cheese and enjoyed the mouth watering sauce and substantial meat on the wings. The tang of the soy-lime vinaigrette is a nice contrast to some of the other wings I had tried.

Auberge du Soleil is a high-end place to dine, and at $14 a plate, makes this appetizer the most expensive on the list. But if you don’t care and just want to sit back, enjoy the view and dine on gourmet wings while sipping a cold glass of Rosé, this may just be the place for you.

I didn’t even make it out of town to experience many different plays on an American institution. I know I have only scratched the surface on my hunt for the perfect chicken wing and sure I will be experiencing many more creative and exciting dishes in the near future.

Enjoy… Wine Ho

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